State Budget Passed, Charter School Bill Approved: This Week at the State House

Saturday, June 20, 2015

 

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The house passed the state budget, the O'Grady charter school bill was approved and more. Here is what happened this week at the State House.

House unanimously approves 2016 state budget

The House approved an $8.7 billion state budget bill that eliminates state income tax on Social Security benefits for many Rhode Islanders, does away with taxes on utilities for businesses, includes economic and jobs development initiatives and provides funding for school construction and greater tax relief for lower-income families. The plan includes no broad-based tax increases, fully funds the education aid formula and includes Gov. Gina Raimondo’s structural changes to Medicaid, although with a smaller impact on hospitals and nursing homes. It does not include a recently proposed plan to toll large trucks to pay for highway and bridge repairs. The bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee and goes before the Senate Tuesday.

Click here to see news release.

House OKs O’Grady charter school bill

The House approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) to require the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to consider the financial impact on sending districts before any new charter school, mayoral academy or expansion of one can be approved.

Click here to see news release.
 
House bans powdered alcohol for those under 21

The House passed legislation  banning the sale or delivery or possession of powdered alcohol to people under age 21, as well as possession of it by them. The Senate has also passed legislation  sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) to ban the substance.

House approves Community-Police Relationship Act

The House approved the Comprehensive Community–Police Relationship Act  sponsored by Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence) aimed at improving relations between the community and police. The bill will require all police departments to continue to collect data on race at traffic stops and report actions taken to address any racial disparities in traffic stops and searches. The legislation also prohibits consent searches of juveniles without reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity. The Senate has passed identical legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence.)

Click here to see news release.

Senate approves bill to make utility debt forgiveness program more effective

The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) making it easier for struggling families to earn forgiveness for utility debt. The bill makes changes to the Henry Shelton Act, named after the longtime anti-poverty and social justice activist and founder of the George Wiley Center in Pawtucket, to allow people who enroll in the debt management plan to earn incremental forgiveness over the course of the year, instead of earning full forgiveness only after successfully completing a three-year plan.

Click here to see news release.

Senate approves domestic violence prevention fund

The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) creating a new fund aimed at preventing domestic and dating violence in Rhode Island. Funded through a surcharge on marriage licenses and administered by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it would be used to pay for evidence-based programs designed to prevent domestic and dating violence throughout Rhode Island. Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) is sponsoring identical legislation in the House.

Click here to see news release.

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House passes McNamara bill allowing terminally ill to use experimental drugs

The House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) creating the Rhode Island Terminally Ill Patients Right to Try Act of 2015 that would allow terminally ill patients to obtain experimental drugs that have not yet been federally approved but which may be in the final stages of FDA testing. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Click here to see news release.

House passes Tanzi bill phasing out cesspools

The House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) to provide for the eventual removal of all cesspools in the state. The bill provides for the eventual removal of all cesspools beyond the previously set boundaries. It would require that any cesspool be replaced upon the sale or transfer of the property where the cesspool is located. Identical legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) has passed the Senate.

Click here to see news release.
 
Senate approves investment accounts for disabled children

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Adam Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) and approved by the Senate would allow the creation of tax-free investment accounts similar to 529 college savings plans to support services for disabled Rhode Islanders when they reach adulthood. The funds from the account could be used for qualified expenses such as education, housing, transportation and services such as employment programs, personal support services, health prevention and wellness, financial management and more. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Robert A. Nardolillo III (R-Dist. 28, Coventry).

Click here to see news release.
 
Leader Ruggerio’s Rhode Island Works legislation heard in Senate Finance

Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) submitted legislation to implement Gov. Gina Raimondo’s bridge replacement, reconstruction and maintenance plan. The legislation was heard by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday and held for further study. House Majority Leader John J. DiSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence) is sponsoring the bill in the House.

Click here to see news release.
          

 

Related Slideshow: FY 2016 House Budget Winners and Losers

The 2016 Fiscal Year House Budget has some significant winners and losers. The budget passed on Tuesday night by the House Finance Committee now goes to the full House.

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Winner

All Day Kindergarten

The new law of the land will make all-day kindergarten the standard for both wealthy communities and economically under-performing.

This was a campaign promise of Governor Gina Raimondo and has long been advocated by education reform advocates.

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Loser

Superman Building and Job Creation in Providence

The effort to rehab the vacant Superman building and lure Citizens Bank to relocate's post-IPO corporate HQ to the City of Providence's Financial District took a big hit with the House Budget capping the real estate tax credit at $15 million per project.

Will this spark Citizens to move to Boston or Hartford?

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Loser

Regional Tourism Councils

The budget strips the regional tourism councils of their state funding and consolidates the dollars at the state level with the Commerce Corp. For Discover Newport and Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitor's Bureau will take massive budget cuts (as will the smaller regional groups).

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Winner

HealthSource

Rhode Island's Obamacare state health exchange looked dead back in January. Speaker Mattiello hinted that he wanted to disband the new structure, but like Houdini the health insurance program received funding from a new employer tax and state funding.

HealthSource lives.

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Winner

Small Businesses

The House budget reduces the corporate minimum tax from $500 to $450, making Rhode Island "now between Massachusetts and Connecticut," said Mattiello.  

The Finance Committee also sped up the Raimondo’s proposal to phase out the sales tax that all nonmanufacturing businesses pay on their electric, natural gas and heating fuel bills. The original proposal would have phased out the tax over a five-year period, but the committee chose to eliminate the tax all in one year. The cost to the state will be $20 million in FY 2016 instead of $4.9 million as originally proposed.

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Winner

Working Families

The Earned Income Tax Credit was increased to 12% from 10.5% of the federal poverty level.  . 

The issues was a major focal point of the Economic Progress Institute.

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Winner

195 Commission

Governor's Raimondo got her wish for  $25 million to develop 195 land in Providence as it was fully funded. This is a win for the new Governor and her newly appointed members of the Commission.

This funding will allow the Commission the flexibility to support proposed projects and potential tenants.

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Loser

Smokers

The budget raises the per pack tax by $0.25. The tax is now $3.75 per pack and it is anticipated to generate $7.1 million in new revenue.

Rhode Island's tax will be the second highest in the United States - behind only New York.

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Loser

Budget Process

Despite promises by Governor Raimondo and Speaker Mattiello, the budget process is as cloaked and chaotic as ever.

Documents not printed.

Lack of commitment to timelines.

Little opportunity for review and discuss.

The salvation was the budget bill has the full support of both Democrats and Republicans on the House Finance Committee.

 
 

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